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College blasts Dr. Kevorkian, supports palliative care

From the January 1999 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 1999 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

ACP-ASIM has sharply criticized the actions of Jack Kevorkian, MD, for providing a videotape of an act of euthanasia to "60 Minutes." The tape was broadcast by the show on Nov. 22.

"ACP-ASIM acknowledges that physicians—and the public—may disagree fervently about whether physician-assisted suicide can be an ethical response to intolerable suffering," College President Harold C. Sox, FACP, said in a statement. "But regardless of where internists stand on the issue, we are united in condemning Dr. Kevorkian's callous exploitation of a suffering person to serve his own personal and political agenda."

The College's new Center for Ethics and Professionalism is coordinating a consensus panel on end-of-life care to develop a series of papers on issues such as caring for patients with dementia, pain management in cancer, palliative care in the intensive care unit and management of depression and delirium at the end of life. The papers are expected to be published in the Annals of Internal Medicine throughout this year. (For more information on the new Center, see the College's Web site at www.acponline.org/ethics/index.html.)

In addition, Dr. Sox testified in November before the Forum on Improving Pain Management, which was hosted by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Dr. Sox said that while physicians cannot always eliminate pain, "they can do a better job of reducing unnecessary pain and suffering." The College is working with federal policy-makers to develop proposals to improve pain management for patients who are chronically ill or near the end of life.

For more details on ACP-ASIM proposals, see Dr. Sox's Nov. 13 statement in the "Where We Stand" section of ACP-ASIM Online (www.acponline.org).

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